S-E Asia’s oldest monument in Bujang Valley

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The oldest building to be recorded in Southeast Asia has been discovered in the Bujang Valley. It is a clay brick ritualistic monument that has been dated back to 110 AD.

Hismanshu Bhatt
has the story in theSun:

The Bujang Valley rises at last

THE next time you happen to be anywhere near the northern side of Penang or the southwestern stretch of Kedah, turn your gaze northward; you will see in the horizon the silhouette of a large mountain with a sharp peak.

Most of us have taken Gunung Jerai, also known as Kedah Peak, the highest mountain in northern Malaysia, for granted. However, a few of us are conscious that some of the most historic discoveries in Southeast Asia are now being made around the mountain’s surroundings.

Almost every country in Southeast Asia has at least one ancient monument that has served as a source of pride for its people who view it in awe, as an important part of their roots. Indonesia, for example, has the magnificent Borobudur (8th century AD), Cambodia has the Angkor Wat (11th century AD) and Vietnam has the Siva-Bhadresvara Temple in My Son (4th century AD).

Little do we know that peninsular Malaysia has also been home to an incredible set of age-old structures, which though not as large as the other well-known monuments in the region, are impressive enough for their sheer numbers in the area named the Bujang Valley.

Since as far back as the 1840s, archaeologists have been unearthing remnants of a civilised settlement that existed in the Bujang Valley from around the 8th century AD to the 13th century. More than 80 sites have been uncovered with structures like the candi, a religious building with Hindu-Buddhist elements, most prominent among the findings.

Of these, the famous Candi Batu Pahat still stands glorious, as it did more than a thousand years back, near the Muzium Lembah Bujang in Merbok. Together with the structures, archaeologists also found hundreds of pottery, implements, beads and figurines.

Incredibly enough, although the archaeological works have been extensive and intense, little is known or even told about this ancient civilisation, veritably the cradle of Malaysia.

But a new discovery made about two years ago is set to change the invisibility of the Bujang Valley among our public. Archaeologists have discovered at least 97 ancient sites around some oil palm estates in Sungai Batu. So far only 10 have been uncovered.

And what they have revealed are propelling the rewriting our land’s recorded history and what is being taught to our children in schools. The discoveries point to evidence that the Bujang Valley civilisation existed 2,000 years ago, long before neighbouring empires such as Majapahit (AD1200) and Sri Vijaya (AD700).

At the heart of the findings is a perplexing clay brick ritualistic monument that has been dated back to AD110, making it the oldest man-made building to be recorded in Southeast Asia.

The Sungai Batu monument and its surrounding structures – including ancient jetties and iron smelting workshops – point to an advanced culture pre-dating many Indianised kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Also found with the monument were various pottery placed ceremoniously around, and a Buddhist tablet with Pallava-Sanskrit inscriptions likely to have been made in the 5th century AD.

An extensive research is being done by the Centre for Global Archaeological Research (CGAR) of Universiti Sains Malaysia to determine how advanced the little-known civilisation – known variously in historic annals as Kataha, Kidaram and Chieh-Cha – was. Just this week scholars from around the world converged at the Bujang Valley to express amazement at the discovery and how it is reshaping understanding of the region’s history.

Long before the empire of Malacca, there was already this powerful trading settlement in Kedah, which just happened to mysteriously disappear. But the secret of its existence cannot be held back any longer. The legacy of the Bujang Valley has risen at last. And it now promises to fully gain our attention, to reclaim its stature that is long overdue; just as it did among the early people of this land who lived around the majestic Gunung Jerai many centuries ago.

Himanshu is theSun’s Penang bureau chief.

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dr ravic

yes, now with islamic party PAS ruling Kedah more truthful revealation being done. Not like Kota Gelangi.What is there to hide (some of) the present Malay Muslim forefathers were once Hindu And Bhudist.Its ok most have accepted Islam but why hide history as this is treasur of the country… Muslims of past seems more like scholars than fanatics compared to the other the lacking in their morals is subtituted with hipocritical fanatism by hiding true history of this land.

Ganesh

Is this why of late, we hardly see any Indians in Indian restaurants?

Infact, we see many other races enjoying toseh more than the Indians themselves. They savour and love the Indian curry.

Even if we see Indians in Indian restaurants, they just eat to keep themselves full. On the other hand, the other races, enjoy Indian food immensively, sometimes, licking their fingers, wiping every drop of curry from their fingers.

Salak

Am not too sure the details, anil! Hopefully , it won’t take half a century (50 years) for Malaysians to poison themselves over the GM rice! 😉 Sorry, can’t quote but mentions of human habitation in Niah and Kedah caves dated back 20k and 40k ago respectively. Of course, the first notion of housing was caves. The Penans still have a stripped down version of a luxurious airconditioned coach. 🙂 The fusion of culture, beliefs and habits make us what we are today – albeit modified versions of the script attaching earlier DNA’s. It’s good to know we have better… Read more »

deja

… mountain in tamil called “malai” whereas place or country refered as “oor”. those days, south indian businessman/sailors who come to peninsular of malaysia called it as “malaioor”. after hundreds of years the words “malaioor” slowly changed to “melayu”….

Salak

“…the oldest man-made building to be recorded in Southeast Asia.”

Maybe in Malaya if Malaya is all of Southeast Asia. That would make a bigger 1Malaysia. If we can’t manage the Penan problem we’ll only be left with Pulau Babi.

Wiki mentions Hindu kingdoms in East Kalimantan circa 5-15 BC.

Anyway, Samy would need some good news for Malaysia.

There might just be another candi around where (a few) Maika share certificates (can be found)?

Ganesh

You should read this Anil,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangga_Negara#mw-head

besides

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kota_Gelanggi

We could have become the tourism capital of Asia with such discoveries, billions of dollars and pounds (sterling) from tourism could have flowed into our country.

All this missed.

nkkhoo

I visited Bujang Valley in mid 80s, more than 20 years ago. There were a musuem and several Hindu temple ruins.

Bujang Valley should be nominated for world heritage site as Penang and Melaka.

musa

I agree that it should be made a world heritage site as it pre-dateds any sultanate …

-SATHIS.K-

I agree with u nkkhoo..

Samuel

Pallava Script or writing is the earliest form of modern Tamil, which is called “Vatteluttu”, rounded alphabets. One can see that ancient round letters of tamil and modern Tamil letters will look very similar, till this date. The ancient round letters are considered far more older and superior to Aryans or Brhmin’s Sanskrit. It was the goodwill of Ancient Cholas that Sanskrit was let grown in Southern India, parallel to their Mother Tounge, Ancient Tamil, and dats one of the reason why you can see Tamil King inscriptions (Cholas, pallavas)in Tanah Melayu is sometimes companied by Sanskrit, like the one… Read more »

semuanya OK kot

Will our fervent and zealous iconoclasts dash into action?

Rabani

Good opportunity for Kedah state government to promote it as tourist attraction to bring in $$$ to the poor in Kedah.

Rabani

About time to rewrite Sejarah Tanah Melayu?